The Prime Minister’s Council on Homelessness held their eleventh meeting in Melbourne on Thursday 8 and Friday 9 September 2011. The agenda over the two days provided the Council with the opportunity to discuss a number of strategic policy, program and monitoring issues that are important in achieving and measuring the Government's targets for reducing homelessness. The key agenda items discussed at the meeting are outlined below.
Caring for older Australians
The Council had the opportunity to discuss the Productivity Commission Inquiry Report: Caring for Older Australians in light of a presentation by the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) on the report and associated recommendations. Council members will continue to engage with the homelessness sector and the Australian Government as the Government’s response to the report is developed. Areas of interest to the Council include how the policy response will prevent and reduce homelessness and how reforms will address cultural change and support service providers.
National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH)
The Council discussed the progress, impacts and impending review of the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH) and noted a number of areas where the agreement has had positive outcomes so far—including Street to Home projects, improved integration between housing and educational / employment services and as a driver for improvement in more coherent state and national data interfaces. The Council discussed that while it is still too early to obtain data from some programs, members are confident that resulting reductions in homelessness will begin to become evident over the next eighteen months.
Research and monitoring
The Council reaffirmed their interest in the collection and reporting of high quality data to assess progress against the White Paper targets and homelessness-related reforms more generally. Members acknowledged that the Government is commissioning and undertaking important research activities but the Council is seeking a more active role in the planning of the homelessness research and evaluation agenda across Government. The Council also noted the value of existing systems data held by government agencies—particularly the Department of Human Services and Department of Employment, Education and Workplace Relations (DEEWR)—and will continue to advocate for agencies to integrate and leverage this information, as appropriate, to improve supports to people experiencing and at risk of homelessness.
With presentations from the Department of Employment, Education and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) and National Employment Services Australia (NESA) on the effectiveness of Job Services Australia (JSA), this meeting provided an opportunity for Council to review the assistance provided to job seekers who are homeless. The Council has some concerns about progress against the White Paper targets in this area, and how improvements will be assessed. The Council will provide further advice to, and requests of, relevant agencies in this respect. The Council also had discussions on the principles of service integration in government funding decisions for initiatives that address employment, education and training needs of people experiencing homelessness.
Enhancing service delivery and service integration
Despite efforts to encourage holistic and integrated approaches to service delivery for people with complex needs and multiple disadvantage, the Council feels that service fragmentation and gaps still exist in programs, services and Government funding arrangements aimed at supporting people experiencing homelessness. The Council will continue to engage with relevant Federal Ministers in promoting service integration principles that develop strong links between agencies and are essential to enhancing service delivery.
Council’s forward priorities
With Council membership extended until mid-2013, priorities for Council’s forward workplan were identified as five key areas of focus:
- Ensuring vulnerable people experiencing homelessness are supported to pursue aspirations for economic and educational participation
- Ensuring vulnerable people experiencing homelessness or at risk are supported to enjoy good health
- Addressing Indigenous homelessness
- Enhancing service delivery, including through service integration
- Maintaining the focus on data and research to provide evidence-based advice
The next Council meeting will be held over 3 and 4 November in Canberra.